singaporeChildren and Women’s Abuse Prevention Bureau of the police last Thursday apprehended a suspect involved in trafficking Sri Lankan women to Singapore. �Bureau Director SSP Jayantha Wickremasinghe said police have so far arrested two suspects involved in the sex trafficking ring. The ring is operated by Sri Lankan nationals located here and Singapore. The recently arrested suspect, a man from Nittambuwa, was the airport liaison who handed over victims to the traffickers in Singapore.

SSP Wickremasinghe said traffickers target local women by promising them jobs in Singapore. One of the victims, a woman from Maharagama, was promised a job at a hospital in Singapore, with all travel expenses covered. She had jumped at the seemingly promising prospect, arriving at Singapore Changi airport in a red shirt as instructed, where she was picked up by the Nittambuwa suspect and taken to a hotel and handed over to another Sri Lankan woman.

The woman told her that she could start working at the hospital the following day. She was told to call her husband and assure him everything was all right. At first, nothing seemed out of place in the nice, air-conditioned room.�However, from the next day onwards, she was forced into prostitution, imprisoned in the hotel room, with no way out and her cell phone taken away. SSP Wickremasinghe said she was forced to have sex with about 25 men each day.

She couldn’t communicate with anyone as she didn’t speak English. But one day, she managed to indicate to an Indian customer that she was being held against her will. He let her use his cell phone to call her husband in Sri Lanka and the husband promptly informed the police leading to an inquiry and a court order to have her returned to Sri Lanka.

“Still the victim won’t say much because she is too scared,” SSP Wickremasinghe said. “We’ve been investigating this trafficking case since last year. We had to go through INTERPOL to nab this suspect.”�Inspector Kanchana Samarakoon, involved in investigating the case, said the sex trafficking ring is believed to be much larger. The police have yet to determine how many women are still detained in Singapore.

Inspector Samarakoon said Sri Lankan trafficking and prostitution rings are widespread in Singapore. Women get involved in these rings due to poverty and desperation and once they return to Sri Lanka, they are too ashamed or too scared to go to the police. �Also the women, mostly from outstations, fall easy prey to people who promise them various job prospects.

“When it comes to domestic work overseas, women are careful to some extent because they are aware of widely reported abuse and exploitation,” Inspector Samarakoon said. “But the problem here was these women were promised jobs at a hospital, which sounds reputable, so they didn’t think twice. Women should be more vigilant and inquire more about these things.”

According to U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, Sri Lanka is primarily a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Women who are promised jobs, mostly domestic work, in countries like Singapore and Jordan are increasingly forced into prostitution.

“Internally displaced persons, war widows, and unregistered female migrants remained particularly vulnerable to human trafficking,” the report stated. “In 2011, Sri Lankan victims were identified in Egypt, Poland, and the United States. Within the country, women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels. �Serious problems remain, particularly in protecting victims of trafficking in Sri Lanka and abroad, and not addressing official complicity in human trafficking.” (ST)